Friday, December 8, 2023


Buying a new RV? The lowest price isn’t always the best buy

Steve Savage submitted this article to when he was a Master Certified RV Technician with Mobility RV Service.

We recently installed a second air conditioner on a new fifth wheel. During our conversation, the owner advised us he had paid nearly $8,000 less than the best price he could get at a local dealership, by buying instead from one 300 miles away. He went on to say the local dealership told him if he bought the same model they carried from someone else, it most likely would take them three to six months to take care of any warranty service he might require.

Did he save money? Obviously he saved on the purchase price. But what about warranty coverage? Many folks are under the impression that the RV’s manufacturer would force the dealership to provide the service. But in cases like this, dealerships are not refusing to provide service — they’re simply putting their own customers first and, at least currently, there is plenty of service work, so making “Joe-who-bought-from-somebody else” wait is not a difficult thing to do.

I have often written about this topic. The reasoning goes this way: Warranty work is covered in the purchase price. The reimbursement rate for warranty coverage from manufacturers is ridiculously low, given the paperwork and shipping that is required and then adding in the wait for reimbursement. Simply put, many service centers, dealerships and independent technicians will only warranty what they sell.

Buying at the cheapest price doesn’t always end up being less expensive. If your rig never needs warranty coverage, it turns out well. If it does require warranty work, don’t expect to move to the head of the line at many dealerships. How much the wait is worth is up to you.

Still think the manufacturer can force a dealership to provide service? Consider the increasing number of multi-site dealerships and the amount they represent in profit to a manufacturer. Do you really think you, the customer, hold the upper hand?




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Jonathan (@guest_69917)
3 years ago

Sometimes price is not why you buy a RV from a dealer a long ways from you. Our current 5th wheel we bought new in 2018 from a dealer 300+ miles away because he was the closest one that had the manufacturer we were looking for. I knew then that I would not be taking it back for warranty work. This is why you learn to do your own repair work as much as possible.

Earl Balentine (@guest_67790)
3 years ago

When I was negotiating purchase price from a dealer I told him I could buy the same RV 1200 miles away for $6k less and a year newer. He told me if I didn’t buy from him that I would be at the end of the line for services. I immediately told him he made up my mind for me and I drove 1200 one way to pickup my new rv $6K cheaper and one year newer. The same local dealer has since worked on my out of state purchase a few times without any delays. Although their sales sucks but the service was very good. I guess we are lucky to live in the Phoenix area where there are dealers everywhere. Of course you will get faster service during the summer months when all the snowbirds are gone.
I am still not pleased with the 3 different rv repair centers I have tried near me. Dealers vary quite a bit when it comes to repairing your RV. Some want to keep your RV as long as possible so they can continue to find things wrong and get as much money out of you or your warranty as possible. Some just fix the one thing that was wrong and get you on your way, I prefer the later.
Unfortunately not everyone that has an RV has many dealers to choose from some may have to take their RV a couple miles away to find the nearest RV repair center.
One my employers where I work at a Bank in the IT dept, it was very import to move or repair computer equipment as fast as possible. The longer the computers are down the company was losing money. Instead of having one tech work 8 hours to complete a job we would have 8 tech completing the job in 1 hours last the same hourly total cost. With the RV repair industry it appears they have one tech work on your plumbing, electrical, flooring, slides and everything else as long as it takes him to get the work done. He has to be a expert in everything. I thought at the repair center while one tech is working on my NAV system another tech would be working on my plumbing, not the case, that’s why it takes so long to get anything done in a timely matter. One time the tech was sick with the flu and was not working on my RV for almost a week. Another time my microwave was being replaced it was installed and ready but had not been tested by the tech and the tech was on vacation on that Friday so wee had to wait another 3 days to get our RV.
My personal opinion is go and get your RV in the state that has the best price. That extra several thousand you save will go a long way in future repairs.

TechiePhil (@guest_67605)
3 years ago

If dealers make so little on warranty work, why are they not clamoring for the manufacturers to build better quality RVs?

Alvin (@guest_67553)
3 years ago

Totally how it works folks. When I worked for one of the largest volume dealerships in Canada, a little start up GM dealership in a nearby town 30 miles away started to undercut everything in their inventory undercutting our “BEST” .

Lookie Loos, cheapskates and bargoon hunters flocked to that place like seagulls on a bag of junk food tailings. That little enterprise moved a heck of a lot of vehicles.

BUT the creative little joint couldn’t even remotely begin to service all the cheapskates they’d reeled with low price as the determining factor of the sale. This of course forced many (lots and lots) of them to seek warranty and other service work at a city operation. Enough said!

Guess where those “foreign” work orders ended up. Answer – right at the bottom of the pile.

Vanessa (@guest_67534)
3 years ago

Had a Ford dealer tell me I would have trouble getting him to work on a new vehicle if I went to Seattle and paid less for it than buying it from him in Montana. This was a military town where a lot of the vehicles were bought somewhere else. Reported it to Ford headquarters and got a letter thanking me for the information.

Roy (@guest_67531)
3 years ago

Buying local might work for some, but what if you’re a full timer? We couldn’t buy close to our home base because the nearest dealership that sold the model we wanted was over 6 hours away. There is a dealership close who sells RVs from that manufacturer and have done some work but we’re closer to the factory than where we got it. So far nothing needing immediate attention.

TravelingMan (@guest_67513)
3 years ago

Most warranties are not worth the paper they are printed on. We know first hand…Even on the more expensive units.

Before calling in a warranty item, are we talking about trim that has fallen off (easily fixed yourself)? Or are we talking about a slide out that won’t extend or retract?

If one reads the manual, they can find a lot of helpful information on what to do if a product fails. Sometimes there are workarounds. Often times, it’s easier to fix it yourself. There are numerous websites that can provide technical assistance. There are many clubs that offer the same.

If the roof is blown off, that is a warranty item for sure. If the A/C fails, that could be a warranty item if you don’t have that skill set. If the drawer falls off, just get a new drawer guide (a better one) and move on.

If you do need warranty work, it’s inconvenient to go back to the manufacturer. But sometimes they can offer better service than a dealer if you can be in the Indiana area. I have found mobile techs convenient as well as some non-dealership RV repair centers when I needed them. Sometimes, I just don’t want to do the work.

In your trip planning, use Duck-Duck-Go (they don’t spy on you like Google and Yahoo does) and pick a couple of RV repair centers and mobile techs before you go. I also look for RV Salvage and Surplus stores on the route. And it doesn’t hurt to get a peak at your Tow Vehicle dealerships. You can wing it until you need it. But it doesn’t hurt to be better prepared if the trip is a particularly long one.

Alvin (@guest_67554)
3 years ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

Anyone else find it strange that RV’ing has become what TravelingMan tells us, which is pretty much spot on?

Tommy Molnar (@guest_67489)
3 years ago

We drove over 500 miles to buy our trailer back in 2012. We saved almost $10k on it. Unfortunately there was a lot to be ‘fixed’, some of which ‘that’ dealer fixed. Luckily we live a nice two day drive from the manufacturer and made two pleasant trips there. This manufacturer is GREAT at fixing stuff and making it right. You just make an appointment – and stuff GETS DONE. We’ve been trouble free for the past six years (knock on wood). Hope I didn’t just jinx myself. We think the 500 mile trip was well worth it.

Oh, and that dealer is now gone.

Ray Leissner (@guest_67488)
3 years ago

I agree with the premise that buying the unit at a distance away from home will be detrimental to receiving timely warranty service near home. But then warranty work, timely or otherwise, is always a hassle. Extending the hassle with an extended warranty is not the optimum solution. We have found that saving the money to pay for mobile techs not only gains immediate response and repair, it saves the vacation and the money spent on hotels while waiting for repairs.

Irv (@guest_67528)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Leissner

I second the vote re: using mobile techs! I’ve had much better luck with them than with dealers. You can get a lot of work done for $8000. If it’s a huge item take it back to the factory.

TechiePhil (@guest_67604)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Leissner

How does one find a mobile tech? Is there a network of mobile RV repair services? Web searches have been unfruitful. Maybe I’m missing some keyword.

Bill T (@guest_67481)
3 years ago

I agree with Eddie. I bought my new C Class from a dealer, (4.5 hours away), I had dealt with before because they had the selection of models we were looking for on their lot. It’s a lot easier to actually walk through the model your are considering to purchase than making a decision from a brochure. But that’s another story for later. Having said that, I needed to have the hot water heater replaced, under warranty, I call the manufacturer and said the nearest authorized dealer was not the one I bought it from and they contacted the dealer, the dealer contacted me and a week later it had arrived and was installed. IMO the process happen quicker because the dealer didn’t have to contact the manufacturer, first and the whole “who’s going to pay for the warranty work” argument begins. The manufacturer granted approval to do it, I believe, since I was the one who contacted the manufacturer first. RV’s are meant for travel. What do folks do when they approach an authorized dealer for repair, thousands of miles from where you bought it?

Steve S (@guest_67478)
3 years ago

The author of this article misses the point that warranty work is meaningless, as to which dealer you purchased from, when travelling and are 2,000 miles away.

You get the work done, get reimbursed and, if not forthcoming, hire a lawyer and sue for the reimbursement, legal/court fees and punitive damages.

Roger (@guest_67594)
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve S

How many of these cases have you actually pursued in court – and won?

Eddie (@guest_67474)
3 years ago

Buy where you want to buy.In the last three years I have bought two RVs and taken two friends there that also bought from this same local dealer. I have a small warranty problem, so, what does that get me? A three month wait. They actually said I should try to find another place that wasn’t as busy as they were If I wanted it quicker.

Donald N Wright (@guest_67473)
3 years ago

Interesting, the dealer I bought my Aliner from wouldn’t do warranty work, or anything else. They sell Aliners, not work on them. Now I use an independent repair facility.

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